We’ve had discussions on past Association of Ghostwriter (AOG) teleseminars about getting paid and, in particular, getting paid in a timely fashion. Contract terms seem to be the most popular way to establish a working relationship that gives the writer better odds of being paid sooner rather than later. But there are other tactics you can use to encourage clients to write the check now instead of next month.
Truth-be-told, I have been cheated out of money a few times – not from ghostwriting clients so much, but from business plan clients years ago. I learned a few things from those experiences that I now apply to my ghostwriting business.
What can you do before and during any project to avoid problems? Some ghostwriters take the unusual step of running a credit check on a potential client. While I’ve never done this – I will, however, Google the prospect’s name and the word “litigation” to see what comes up – it does make sense, especially if you are considering committing to a months-long project that will tie up your time.
Besides investigating your client, here are 4 steps you can take to try and extract payment more quickly:
1. Clarify “delivery” versus “acceptance” of your work. I generally bill on delivery of a ghostwritten chapter or section or article – whatever the contract specifies – rather than when the client deems it acceptable. Because, let’s be honest, the client may take two months before their busy schedule provides enough time to look it over. Or, if money is tight at the moment, though they loved what you created, they can also choose to purposely delay acceptance. We like to think such situations won’t arise, but they do. And if you have allowed your client to decide when you will receive a check, you could be waiting a very long time.
2. Wait for payment before continuing with your next deliverable. In situations where you’re on a tight timeline, the client may push you to keep working even when you are waiting for payment. Let’s say you’ve completed all of this month’s blog posts, sent a bill, and the client has promised a check but wants you to start penning next month’s posts. Do you see a problem with this? Your client has little incentive to pay you quickly.
She may decide she’d rather wait until she sees next month’s posts. This is not acceptable. You deserve to be paid when you deliver what you were hired to write. So as soon as the month’s blog posts are delivered, send your invoice and indicate that when you receive payment, you’ll start work on next month’s posts. You may also want to specify how much time you’ll need to research and write the next set of posts, in case your client thinks she can pay you on the last day of the month and still have you able to whip out four more posts overnight. Not going to happen.
This particular tactic has served me well.
3. Set a deadline for payment. When you invoice clients, do you provide a “due by” date? It’s always a good idea to indicate a deadline for payment.
If you’re billing a client for last month’s work on June 1st, why not indicate that payment is due by June 15th, or by the 21st? Companies with set payment terms, such as Net 30 or Net 45 may not move an inch to meet your deadline, but you can ask. You may also want to consider offering a discount if your invoice is paid quickly. I’ve seen writers offer a 5% or 10% discount if payment is received within 14 days – and their clients have taken them up on the offer. If cash flow is tight or you know the client to be a slow payer, this could be worth trying.
4. Offer to accept payment by PayPal. In the last year I’ve had several clients ask if they could pay me by PayPal. For smaller amounts, I don’t mind absorbing the fees associated with using PayPal, but for larger payments, I always request a check. Yes, PayPal deposits the money into your account right away, but on a $10,000 invoice, you’ll give several hundred dollars up. Personally, I’d rather wait a few days and save money on the fees. I have been known to offer clients my FedEx account number to speed things along, which some clients are happy to use.
In general, specifying when you expect to be paid and indicating if there are consequences if you have not received payment will significantly improve how quickly you receive the money you are owed.
What other tactics have you used to get paid faster?